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Queen of Tragedy
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Place of rocks and trees, and trees and rocks...and water.
How about a chapter?
Thanks to Itanshi1 for betaing, and RadiantBeam for bouncing ideas back at me!
Is second-best really good enough?
Angel, Chapter 2
Chapter 2: Casting Long Shadows
It frightened Fate how much she remembered about this house.
She knew how many rooms, doors and windows there were, although it had been five years since she last walked through them. She knew where the carpet yielded to tile, and where the wall curved around for the stairs. Yet everything was different, familiar yet new, and her head was still whirling from the changes.
Six steps from the couch to the door. Turn right, five steps to the stairs. Mark landmark for Arf. Up the stairs, Arf stops at the top—sixteen steps. Landmark for Arf.
“Are you sure you’re blind?” The low, mature voice said from behind her, approaching with an up-and-down nuance in the sound from mounting the stairs. If the warm mellow tone was Carim, then this must be Signum.
“I have a pair of eyes,” Fate replied softly.
“Ah.” Signum moved up past Fate, her boots squeaking as she turned around.
“Is her room still the same?” Distantly, Fate heard herself ask.
“Yes,” came the quiet answer. “I can take you there.” Fate reached out with her right hand and felt her hand be tucked into the crook of a muscled arm. They walked down the hall, and Fate counted her steps quietly. The way seemed shorter, five years later.
“Arf, landmark.” As Arf sniffed around, ingraining the location to memory, Fate ran her fingers over the door frame, smelling the old wood scent dreamily. The indentations in the wood were still here. After Alicia became the Black Angel, she had carved crosses into the frames of their bedroom door and windows. Fate had tried to rub them out with sandpaper—she had told Alicia that crosses had nothing to do with her powers and that she should set a barrier if she really wanted protection from her enemies. Maybe Alicia had known. Maybe she only wanted to pretend that she had someone on her side when she fought, someone to watch her back (someone useful).
She did get those people, in the end.
“Alicia’s room, huh,” Fate murmured.
“You can tell two people lived here.”
“Still?” Fate scoffed, affected and incredulous. She made to walk across the room she saw in her memory, only to have Arf gently guide her away from something where there should have been open space. Biting her lip, Fate looked down.
“Is the bunk-bed still here?”
“Straight in front of you.”
“Thank you. I hope you don’t mind, if I stay here tonight.”
“She was your sister.”
Fate shook her head. “You knew her better than me. I can never match that.”
“Whatever you say, Testarossa.” Signum obviously wasn’t a debating sort.
“Signum?” Fate’s question stopped the heavy footsteps by the door. “What did you call my sister? Alicia?”
A pause. “Good night, Testarossa.”
“It’s Carim, right?” Hayate asked, glancing over at the blonde beside her. The house was so large that Hayate could wheel along beside Carim in the hallways without worrying about accidentally crushing her against the wall. Zafira padded along ahead them, sulking at being displaced from Hayate’s side and giving glowering looks back every few steps.
“Yes, Carim Gracia,” She replied. “You’re Fate’s friend?”
“Yup,” Hayate said happily. “We’ve been living together for three years now. Every day is lots of fun.” Something made her add, “She’s fun to tease…but too bad she’s not my type!”
A sidelong glance later, Carim gracefully chose to say instead, “Here, you can use this guest room.” But Hayate grinned as she caught the very slight blush on the older woman’s cheeks. Rolling over to the bed, Hayate suddenly turned and looked back at Carim.
“Will you stay and talk for a bit? Please?”
Carim hesitated, and so Hayate produced her most charming grin, hoping that it would work on Carim. She had gotten rusty, since Fate couldn’t see her and so charming smiles had no effect—she had become really good at putting the most pitiful tones she could in her voice though.
But it seems like—yes, score! After waiting for Carim to sit on the bed, Hayate transferred herself over, laughing as Zafira leapt up behind her as her backrest, planting his plumy tail in her lap. “You’re really strong,” Carim noted, and for some reason Hayate could feel a blush coming on.
“I had to be able to lift my own body weight, if I wanted to live on my own,” she explained quickly. “Especially if I fall. Now and then I’d fall in an awkward spot and then Zafira would have to go get Fate to help me back in. But it’s okay with Fate, because sometimes she needs
help making sure her clothes are labelled with the right colours and stuff like that.”
Carim chuckled, holding a hand to her mouth, relaxing for the first time since Hayate had met her. Her fingers were raw and red, as if something hot had seared the skin. Without thinking Hayate grabbed Carim’s wrist.
“What happened? Did it have to do with the fight where—the fight you were in before?”
The blonde paled, and that familiar flash of emotions rushed across her face—the one that told of bad memories. Hayate knew that look well. “Yes, it was,” Carim said carefully. “It’s nothing though, really. A few burns is nothing against what Alicia did for us.”
Ah ha. Slowly, Hayate started prying. She wasn’t sure whether
would get the most answers, so she started fishing carefully. “Oh, did she help you guys out often?”
“She always placed us first, over herself even, although she’s the most important of us all.” Carim smiled, a fond look creeping into her vivid purple eyes. “I can’t even count all the times she’s saved my life. The only one who’s ever returned the favour was…Nanoha.”
Wow, loaded pauses, loaded expressions, loaded
then. “Look, I feel like I was reading a completely different book from everyone else before, let alone different pages. Could you please tell me what exactly the Black Angel does? And what that blue gem thing you had was? And just
is happening around here?”
Blindsided, Carim stammered, “Um…I don’t think that we should involve anyone who isn’t—”
“Come on,” Hayate smiled wickedly. “Either someone tells me, or I’m going to root around for the answers, and since I wouldn’t be doing it in a secure fashion someone else might catch onto what I’m doing, then that’ll cause
problems for you guys in the long run, right? And there’s no way that I’m just going to forget about all this because Fate’s my best friend, and if she’s mixed up in this then I’m going to stand—or sit—with her all the way. So you might as well tell me now, and save us all the trouble—I mean, I’m here now, aren’t I?”
Watching Carim’s expression, Hayate thought smugly,
. Beautiful as in the way her plan worked, that is. As in she could see the blonde’s inhibitions falling away.
as in she’s about to give in and tell Hayate about everything!
“You’re certainly…different, aren’t you?” Carim said, studying Hayate with just as much care. A cautious aura filled her words, as if she were shifting around what she was sharing to avoid sensitive issues. Hayate expected that; they weren’t just going to trust her right away, not if the stakes were so high.
“Alicia was the Black Angel, a chosen mage-fighter who’s job is to find and seal the Jewel Seeds—those blue gems—so that other people can’t use them for evil purposes.”
Hayate laughed, interrupting non-wittingly. “That sounds like a magical girl anime!”
Carim stared, then giggled. “A little bit, yes,” she admitted. “There’s a group out there who are trying to collect the Seeds for their own purpose—they call themselves the White Wardens, and most times, we fight.” A tremor went through her hands. “The last time didn’t end so well for us. But Alicia got us the Seed in the end.”
“You mentioned that she bought us some time?”
“The Seeds only show every few weeks. With Fate as the new Black Angel, we need the time to prepare her.” Grimacing, Carim said sadly, “We need her to be ready, fast. Especially since I—” She cut herself off.
“Since you?” Hayate pounced. “Is there something wrong?” She realized that she sounded more worried than she really ought to be, and tried to tone down in case Carim turned warier. Ah, well—Hayate made a stab in the dark. “Are
the one who finds the Seeds?”
“But I can’t!” Carim cried, frustrated tears building in her eyes. “I can’t after Yuuno—” Again, she stopped. Hayate took her other hand—she had never let go of Carim wrist earlier. Squeezing softly, to not hurt her further, but assuringly, Hayate asked softly, “Why can’t you anymore?” Vaguely, she felt a sense of guilt, prying answers out of Carim while she was in an emotional state. But she wanted to know, she
to know…An odd feeling pulsed inside Hayate, almost like how she felt before Nanoha had appeared and blown their living room apart.
“I’m the prophet for our team,” Carim murmured, her eyes downcast. “But I need someone to work with me, someone with enough power to use the Tome of the Night Sky. I’m the one who reads the
, but I can’t do it on my own.”
The feeling was so strong, Hayate nearly gasped from the pressure. “Can I see it?” She barely managed to say. “The Tome…can I see it?”
Maybe it wasn’t just her, maybe Carim felt it too. Eyes wide, almost mindlessly, Carim got up and left. Alone, Hayate panted, pressing her fists against her chest. Zafira was nearly hysterical, barking and nudging at her, but Hayate wrapped an arm around his neck—she couldn’t let him go get Fate, not yet, not until—
Carim returned, and held out a thick, hard-covered tome encircled with chains. Hayate reached out, feeling that sizzling sensation again, that…magic…
When Hayate touched the book a blinding light exploded from its pages, the sound of snapping chains exploding through the room. In the intense white light Hayate could barely see the riffling of many yellow pages, all blank, until it reached the back cover and slammed shut, dropping down into Hayate’s lap.
Something throbbed in her chest, a warm, electric feeling. Looking up, Hayate met Carim’s eyes, which were wide open in instantaneous relief, then fear, then horror.
“Oh,” she said weakly, feeling the weight of the Tome digging into her thighs. “I don’t think that was a good thing at all.”
Then everything went black.
For those who are interested, guide dogs are asked to make “landmarks” of areas where their handlers are likely to go often, so that they can take them directly there without the handler needing to count their steps.
And so we plod along, tortoise-paced…I hope a little more is explained in this chapter, although not everything is out in the open yet…Poor Hayate, what did she get herself into?
Just in case there’s confusion, Hayate’s disability prevents her from walking, but she still has some sensation in her legs (like from Nanoha A’s).
Not Work That Kills
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